I have recently found myself thinking a lot about what excites me about some churches, and what detracts from others. You regularly read about the excitement, but I struggle to share the rest.
In some ways, I am not too different from many young adults in that I do not have a consistent worshipping community due to the nature of my job. On the rare Sunday “off,” I struggle to make the decision first, if I go to church or not and then, where I will go (I try to go somewhere I have not been to for work so that I can worship rather than work). Sometimes I do “opt out” of worship – I am exhausted from a long work week and traveling, there are things needing to be done at home, and/or I haven’t had much time with my husband due to our conflicting busy schedules. Many times it is as simple as not wanting to sit through another boring service.
Yes, I said that! All too often, church is BORING. The worship hour quickly begins to feel more like a (well-rehearsed) monolog with very little excitement or genuine passion. There is a formula that is stuck to almost more religiously than the actual congregation might be – 4 prayers, 3 hymns, 2 scripture readings, and 1 sermon. The leaders seem to be on a rotation and have become passive and bored with their jobs, and the preacher seems worn down as if presenting a research paper.
Yes, this might be a little blunt, but I fear that this is the reality that so many congregations are finding themselves slowly slip into. I also believe that this is why so few people make church a priority on Sunday morning. The worship hour has become a boxed in, predictable, and boring requirement and has lost its worship aspect.
I think about the things which I choose to do on my Sunday “off” and I look to my friends who do not regularly attend worship on Sundays. Almost every person I think of is opting for some sort of “together time” with their family. Relationships are being strengthened and God’s grace is being shared. Those who might be “skipping” church are probably engaging in conversation with others who might not ever attend, and in the process are sharing a glimpse of the love in the checkout line, that is being taught in the sanctuary.
I regularly read articles and hear questions surrounding the mystery of how to bring in more young adults. I want to urge us to look beyond this one, very broad and diverse age group and look at people in general. Why are so many gathering at the Starbucks across the street rather than in our sanctuaries? Why do so many come one time and never return? Why are our own members slowly fading away?
Because worship has become more about being present in a building than worshiping God, and is boring.
Our greeters are more engaged in side conversations and gossip rather than greeting.
Our ushers are only present to collect the offering.
Our liturgists are quiet and bordering monotone, reciting a script they have used 20 times.
Our sermons, while they might be great, are presented as research papers rather than the Good News.
This isn’t happening in every congregation, but I am seeing it way more often than I am comfortable with. This is where we need to look at making changes, not in our programming and refreshments.
Our greeters should warmly and genuinely welcome all who walk through the doors and save the gossip time for later.
Our ushers should be present to make sure all find an appropriate seat, know where the restrooms are and have what they need.
Our liturgists should read the bulletin and scripture readings ahead of time and excitedly lead us in the liturgy and readings.
Our preachers should take pride in what they have worked so hard on all week and share their interpretation of scripture with emotion and a passion which draws the listener in rather than puts them to sleep.
I personally don’t buy it that the shrinking attendance is a young adult problem. I don’t believe that increased or more diverse programming will fix the problem.
Passion, excitement, genuine welcome, and “real” worship will draw people in. A true desire to build and share in relationship, a challenge to go out and be a better example of Christ’s ministry – this is what I believe people seek in the midst of this broken and hurting world. Not scripted, ritualistic, boring church.
It is time that we let go of the formalities and reconnect with the people. It is time that we, as leaders of the congregations, give permission to share real emotion as we share our own. It is time that we return to worship in the church, focusing on our Creator rather than the building.
When do you experience genuine excitement and worship during
your worship service?
What aspects of leadership and worship do you think could use a jump-start?
Rev. Jordan B. Davis